Ironman California 70.3 – Oceanside Race Report

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Have you ever wanted something so bad that you feel like you are starting to smother the idea of it and you just might possibly jinx yourself into not getting it because you want it so bad?  That is how I felt leading up to Ironman 70.3 California in Oceanside.  So much so that I forced myself to do other things such as rock climbing and skiing to stop hyper focusing on it.  I knew I had the fitness to do the race, I just couldn’t help but wonder if it was good enough to get on the podium and earn a World Championship slot.  Here is a bit of the back story for those of you that do not know.   Last year I turned down my World Championship slot for the 70.3 distance in Boise because I was afraid of racing too much last year and my main focus was World Championships in Kona.  Yes, a good, legit reason but I still regretted that decision moments after making it and could do nothing to change it.  Here is my post about regret.

Once I completed my year of racing last year with Ironman Arizona in November I started thinking about 2014.  I knew one of my big goals was to qualify again for 70.3 World Championships, therefore I started really looking at races that I could travel to easily and do well at.  Of course Oceanside was a no brainer, however, that race sells out within moments of going on sale because it is so popular and draws some of the best athletes around.  After racing Arizona I started shaking every tree, contacting every sponsor I knew and tapping into every connection I had to see if I could get a slot into Oceanside.  In January I found one from the sponsoring coach of the event and was more excited than I can even express.  Now, that I knew I could race in Oceanside I started really focusing on my goals.  Most importantly, I wanted to earn a World Championship slot but I also wanted to go sub five hour.  Last year when I raced Oceanside, I finished 6th in my age group in five hours flat and was not on the podium.  I wanted redemption with that course as well as with myself.  I was motivated!

I am a big believer in goals.  Setting goals gives you something to strive for to help create consistency.  Four weeks prior to racing Oceanside I had a goal to hit that I had been focusing on for almost a year.  I chose to race Phoenix Marathon with a goal to qualify for Boston but to also complete a marathon in sub 3:15.  I am not going to lie, I considered pulling from the marathon because I was concerned about the effects the marathon was going to have on my legs going into Oceanside.  But then again, I am never really one to back down from a goal.  After talking with my coach at Camelback Coaching we made adjustments to my training and I decided to go for it.  I did race Phoenix marathon and finished in 3:14 and then took my run training way down leading into Oceanside to give my legs ample time to repair and recover.  When you race so close together you never really know if your legs are going to be there until that day.  I believed I was ready and my legs were well prepared for the 70.3 journey through Oceanside.  After-all, remember, I WAS MOTIVATED!  When it comes to long course racing so much of it is mental and I was confident that I could do what I wanted and needed to do.

Now, onto my race report.  The days leading up to the race I decided to travel solo to keep my anxiety at a minimum and stay focused.   Even though I was so amped and ready to open up the triathlon season with a bang, I was careful to not get too hyper-focused and turn my goal into jello and watch it ooze through my fingers.   On my way to Oceanside, I decided to stop off in La Jolla for a swim the cove to get a feel for the ocean temperature in my sleeveless blueseventy reaction wetsuit.  Even though the swim was not necessary it somehow always calms my nerves.  After my swim I headed to Oceanside to get settled in for the weekend.  I had some time before I could go to athlete check in so I decided to  shake the legs out on my bike to make sure all the gearing was good.

Athlete check in for this race was a new experience because my registration for Oceanside was not finalized until the previous Friday.  Therefore, because I was not on any list I was sent to the pro table, which is also the “Solutions” table but I tell people I had to check in at the pro table.  It was still a bit of a chore making sure I was in the system only because I was thinking “No Chip, No Time” and if my chip was not registered to me in the system then my race was not going to be recorded.  I will admit, I was a little uptight making sure I was registered and everything was straightened out; after all I had big goals to achieve this race and I certainly did not want them to go unrecorded.  None-the-less, everything was taken care of and now I could relax, enjoy Oceanside and get ready to race.

454tattooFriday I simply got up early, did an easy 20 minute jog to keep the legs loose and then hung out with some friends.   I like to keep the day before a race pretty mellow.  One of the highlights of this trip was I got meet some new team members with our Wattie Ink Elite Team and pick up my new race kit at one of our team sponsors shop, 454 Tattoo.  The night before a race is a challenge for me because I want to spend some time visualizing the race but then be distracted.  Thankfully, that night there were a few sweet sixteen basketball games that I enjoyed watching to keep my mind off of racing.

Race Morning – Oceanside

At Oceanside because bike check in is race morning I like to get to transition early to avoid the chaos of nervous athletes.  Plus, the bike racks are numbered but then it is first come first serve on the rack.  Because of my late registration I was on the very first row of transition, right next to the pros.  Before heading over I did my typical, two packets of instant oatmeal and a cup of caffeinated coffee for breakfast.  I was calm but had a good amount of nerves that made me feel somewhat nauseous, that was a good sign for me.  Setting up transition has become easier and easier at each race, I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.  Once I was finished I just hung around, chatted with my Wattie Ink teammates, looked for athletes that I knew were racing so I could wish them a great day and waited for my parents to show up so I could say hi before hitting the water.  Having my parents there was such a gift, they decided at the last minute to drive over from Scottsdale to watch me race because they knew how important this race was to crew

Swim – Oceanside

My swim wave was 16th out of 23, I started 47 minutes after the pros took off.  It was cool to see them come through transition before I entered the water.  However, the down side to being the 16th wave meant I had to navigate through a lot of people in the water.  I even passed people back stroking and thought to myself, really?  But hey, kudos to them for being out here achieving their dreams.  There was no cloud cover so as the sun crested the horizon the glare off the water was blinding.  I had to sight more than normal on this swim course but continued to focus on my form and kept my effort level consistent.  I never know what my swim time is during a race because, it is what it is, and I try to focus on effort.  As I exited the water I felt good about the way I executed my swim and would not change anything about it.  However, I did not feel that way when I finally did see my time of 35:55, I expected to swim faster than that because my time last year on this course was 30 minutes and some change. But an important lesson to take away is that no matter what the clock says, if you focus on your effort and swim like you know how to swim the rest of your race will fall into place like it should.  My time could have been slower due to the excessive sighting, navigating more people, chop, you name it.  In the end, I came back around full circle and am proud of my swim.  My time put me 13th in my division and 98th in my gender.

Transition 1 – Oceanside

Transition is the length of at least a football field. When you exit the water you have to sprint the entire way down the chute and enter on the north end and then my bike was on the far south end, so I sprinted that whole way and could feel my body resisting. My feet were numb, I had no dexterity in my hands and my heart felt like it was going to pound out of my chest from supporting my body horizontally in the water to being forced to adjust to me sprinting in a vertical position.  Once at my bike I struggled with getting my wetsuit off and just wanted to sit down, but I didn’t.  As slow as I felt I managed to get out of T1 in 2:58 which  was still a very competitive.

Bike – Oceanside

I was really looking forward to the bike portion of this race because I decided to race a disc wheel.  I have only used the disc in one other race and I am not going to lie, I was a little nervous wondering if I could handle the disc and if it was going to cost me time.  Up until this race I did question the value of the disc for me.  You have to be a strong enough cyclist to really see the benefits of the disc.  Well, I proved to myself this race that I can handle a disc and I should race it at every opportunity I can.

Even though the air temperature was about 60, I knew I was going to start generating a lot of heat and the day would warm up, so I decided against any extra gear and was pretty cold for the first few miles.  I told myself to breath, relax and I would eventually warm up nicely.  The first part of the bike leg is rather interesting as you are going through some commercialized areas, like behind a shopping center, before you are on Camp Pendleton.   Because of the wave start it is very congested with all levels of athletes and slightly difficult to get into a groove.   I simply put my head down and just rode from one rider to the next.  Luckily I was traveling fast enough to not have to worry about drafting.  At one point I felt a slight cross wind from the ocean, looked over and smiled.  I was so incredibly happy to be racing and I felt great.  I looked down at my Garmin and realized I was flying.  I knew in that moment choosing to ride the disc was a great choice.  Today was going to be a great day.  After that moment I remember settling into a groove and thinking to myself, today is your day.

As I continued to ride I looked at every female’s calf to see if she was in my age group.   Normally when I am racing I try to have the mentality that I am just racing myself and the clock.   But lets be real for a moment, even though one of my goals was to be sub 5 hour  my bigger goal was to earn a Ironman 70.3 World Championship slot.  In order to do that I needed to come in first or second in my age group.   My history of racing is I hold my own in the swim, those that get out of the water in front of me I can get close to or pass on the bike or the run.   So, I KNOW I have women to catch.  However, I did not see that many on the bike and I was starting to wonder where they all were.  About half way through the bike I surrendered to not knowing where I stood and decided to focus on racing my race and the outcome will be what it’s going to be.  This allowed me to focus on what was important, my effort level and my enjoyment of the day.  I chatted with as many athletes as possible and enjoyed the experience of racing.  I had the opportunity to chat briefly with two challenged athletes, talk about an inspiration.  One was blind on a tandem bike and the other on his hand bike.  I was so amazed at their strength and determination.

Usually at about mile forty of the bike I start to have the need to shift around in my saddle to get comfy and today my trusty ISM Adamo Road saddle kept me happy and comfy.  With ten miles to go I increased my effort and found myself pushing the tempo, wanting to squeeze everything I could, within reason, out of my legs, but leave enough to have a strong run.  Once the bike course left Camp Pendleton and headed back to transition, I began to focus on the run.  I had a great bike and was ready to strap on my shoes.  The last bit of the bike forces you to slow down because it is a no pass zone on the Strand and you are riding next to runners.  Here I really focused on lowering my heart rate and getting ready to have a strong run.  I finished the bike 3rd in my age group in 2:40.  Unbeknownst to me I passed 10 women in my age group on the bike.  But understand, I did not know any of this while I was racing.

Transition 2 – Oceanside

Once again, I was lucky due to my registration faux pas, my bike rack was in the first row which could allow for an easily executed and fast transition.  However, that did not happen.  It as still fast but could have been better.  I chose to wear socks and fumbled with getting them on.  Anyhow, I am not going to knit pick.  I had a great transition time with 1:39 and I was off!

Run – Oceanside

Run OsideKnowing I was going to see my parents was a pleasant distraction because I immediately started looking for them.   Within the first 1/2 mile there they were screaming and proud.  The first mile is always weird because my body wants to run faster but my mind is telling it no, not yet.  The run course at Oceanside is enjoyable for the racer as well as the spectators because it is incredibly spectator friendly.  Having the course lined with people cheering makes the time pass a little quicker.  There were even several of my Wattie Ink teammates cheering and screaming which is very motivating.  I finally settled into a groove at about mile 3.  It is a two loop course which suits my style of running because then I can easily break the course down mentally.  The first part is narrow and congested because we run on the pier and the Strand and you can only run about two wide.  Therefore, I found myself saying, “on your left” a lot.  This did effect my pace a bit but it also makes the miles pass quicker due to the distraction.  Plus any distraction from starring at women’s calves was a good thing for me.  I had not seen any woman with a calf marked in my age group in a long time.  I thought to myself, either you are having a great race or something is seriously wrong.  Oh well, just keep running.  The second part of the run course is up off the Strand, running through a residential area, still lined with tons of spectators.  The slight, and I mean slight, elevation change of the upper road lined with houses blocking the ocean breeze made a huge difference in temperature.  You wouldn’t think so, but it was amazing.  There were a few homeowners out with their hoses spraying the athletes with cool water and I, of course, loved it and took advantage of the opportunity to stay cool.

My goal was to finish my run sub 1:34, because that was my time last year.  One way I get through my races is I give myself a focal point of which I can usually control and that is a “no slower than” pace.  I knew I had to run no slower than a 7:10 minute pace per mile in order to hit my 1:34 goal.  The first half of the race I managed that just fine, but after getting through the pier and Strand the second time my legs were feeling heavy and I had to fight to hang on.  The run is on concrete, not just any concrete but boardwalk concrete and my legs were taking a beating.  I took an extra PowerGel because my energy was waining and I thought it was due to lack of sugar.  But in reality it was just my legs saying, enough is enough, this is as fast as we are going to go.   The last 3 miles I managed to push the tempo and effort and finish strong. The fun thing about the finish at Oceanside is you can see the finishing arch for about a quarter mile.  After almost 5 hours of racing it is a delightful sight.  I ended up running a 1:35, which put me 2nd in my age group.  I might have missed my run goal by 1 minute but am super proud of my overall performance

I crossed that finish line knowing that I did my best, enjoyed every moment of it, and knew that I at least accomplished one of my goals of coming in under 5 hours.  My parents and teammates were so excited for me because we knew I had a great race, we just didn’t know how great.  We had no clue where I stood as far as placement and final time because the tracking system was not uploading to the internet.  The instant gratification of knowing was not there.  As frustrating as it was to not know I let it go because it was done and it was going to be what it was going to be.  Time to celebrate!

Oside Screen shotBefore celebrating I wanted to get cleaned up so I went back to my condo to shower and eat.  Even though I didn’t know my placement or exact finish time, I knew it was close and I wanted to head back over to the award ceremony and allocation for World Championships.  I made my recovery shake and searched once again for results online with no prevail.  Oh well, trying to not let frustration build I decided to open up Facebook.  The first thing I saw was a screen shot of my sister’s iPhone with my results from the day. Wait!? What?!?! How does she have that?  Is that real? I see 2nd place in my division with a finishing time of 4:56.  I lept up and immediately started dancing around as I called her.  Now, it really is time to celebrate!

I quickly headed back down to allocation to HOPEFULLY claim my spot to Ironman 70.3 World Championships.  See, you never know how many slots are going to be allocated to each age division until after the race starts.  It is all dependent on how many toe the line that day.  I figured there would be at least one and hopefully two for my age group.  Sure enough, there were two slots and I claimed mine.   In that moment a surge of emotions came over me.  The sense of accomplishment was overwhelming.  I wanted something so bad, focused on it and trained every day thinking about it.   I knew there were other races that I could do to keep trying for my World Championship slot but to knock it out in the first race of the year is a huge relief because now I can start pursuing some other goals.

Oside podium

My biggest take away I can give you in regards to this race is to set goals, put a plan of action in place to achieve them, go for them with all your heart, and be proud of wherever you land because you did your best.   Yes, I landed in the best place possible for me but had I landed in a different spot I would still have been happy because I stayed within myself and raced the best I could.  Like I mentioned before, goals are instrumental, I am firm believer in having them because they keep you striving for something and create consistency.

I want to thank my family for all their love and support through the countless hours of training, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love without it.  To Rolf’s for supporting me achieve my dreams.  To Camelback Coaching for being the best coaches on the planet and keeping my head on straight.  To Destination Kona for enabling me to get all the silly gear that I want and need to train and race.  To Mercado Chiropractic for keeping me healthy and injury free.  And lastly but not least to Wattie Ink for all their support and connections to some awesome sponsors and teammates.

Now, onto some crazy adventures racing a few Ultras before my next triathlon.

Happy Training and thanks for reading.


About sherianne

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is SheriAnne Nelson and I am happily married to my husband Mike. I’m a mother of three beautiful children ages 9, almost 6, and 3, am a passionate fitness professional, and a Star Diamond Level fitness coach within the Team Beachbody program in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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